Tech & Work

Order in the database! The software says, "Go to jail!"

I've watched a few episodes of People's Court, Judge Judy, and Judge Joe Brown, but China has taken the judicial system to a whole new level with its use of software to help determine and standardize prison sentences. Check out the news story: "Justice at the click of a mouse in China."

According to the story, "The software, tested for two years in a court in Zibo... covered about 100 different crimes, including robbery, rape, murder, and state security offenses... Judges enter details of a case and the system produces a sentence."

Already this software and judicial process have received a mixed bag of feedback. One chief judge said, "The software can avoid abuse of discretionary power of judges as a result of corruption or insufficient training." However, "some Chinese newspapers criticized the move as a farce that highlighted the 'laziness of the court' and that would not curb judicial corruption as touted."

If the judges are entering the details of the case, how is that preventing corruption or insufficient training? I actually see a lot more room for error and corruption when you take people out the trial equation and leave it up to one person to enter data and software to spit out the results. I understand the desire to standardize sentencing, but not every case is a cookie cutter image of the next. There are endless situations and circumstances that must also be taken into account. I've never been in trouble with the law *knocking on wood*, but I truly hope that this judicial practice doesn't catch on in the United States.

About Sonja Thompson

Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.

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